Piston Cloud Puts A Private Cloud Spin On OpenStack

the Rackspace-led OpenStack open source cloud initiative

Calling itself "the enterprise OpenStack company," Piston Cloud Tuesday officially launched Piston Enterprise OS (pentOS), its secure and open cloud operating system for managing private cloud environments. Piston Cloud offers an OpenStack distribution that creates an automated cloud environment for swift and easy deployment and wraps in cloud security needs, said Joshua McKenty, Piston Cloud CEO and co-founder and former architect of NASA's Nebula cloud.

The official launch of Piston Cloud comes after the company raised $4.5 million in funding in July.

According to McKenty, most private cloud offerings today require complex configuration, and installation is time-intensive. Meanwhile, maintenance and scaling for private clouds can be error-prone. And, so far, public and private cloud options don't meet enterprise needs for security, compliance and lifecycle management while also creating vendor lock-in.

McKenty said OpenStack was launched with public and private clouds in mind, but that many businesses are using OpenStack on the public cloud side. Piston Cloud wants to fill in the gaps left by OpenStack for private cloud environments while also leveraging interoperation with public clouds.

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"When we kicked off OpenStack last summer, the goal was that OpenStack fulfilled the needs of public and private clouds," he said, adding that pentOS takes that one step further and enables businesses to connect different cloud services together to create a hybrid environment that blends private and public cloud services.

Piston Cloud pentOS comes on the heels of OpenStack releasing its fourth version, dubbed Diablo, and just months after OpenStack celebrated its one-year anniversary. So far, OpenStack has had more than 50,000 downloads from the central code repository and boasts about 110 contributing companies.

PentOS is delivered via a USB stick, which can be configured on a laptop. From there, that USB is plugged into a top-of rack switch, which provisions the OS and Open Stack and essentially creates the cloud environment. McKenty said launching a cloud using pentOS requires no manual operating system install and is 99.99 percent automated. He called it a "hands-free cloud."

PentOS can run on hardware from any vendor, and currently Piston Cloud is working Cisco, Dell, HP and others. According to Piston Cloud, the company's patent-pending Null-Tier Architecture offers storage, compute and networking on every node for massive scalability.

PentOS also features CloudAudit, a cross-industry standard that was launched last year to automate the process of auditing cloud service providers. CloudAudit provides a set of APIs accessible by auditors to certify a cloud is up to snuff, McKenty said.

While McKenty said that Piston Cloud will start with a direct sales model, the company plans to target systems integrators and other channel players in the future to help build out cloud environments and tie together cloud services.

"It remains to be seen where the bulk of our sales will come from," he said.

Piston Cloud will compete directly against VMware vCloud Director and with Project Olympus, an open source cloud infrastructure from Citrix that leverage the Cloud.com acquisition.

"We are not building a portal," he said. "We don't think that the industry needs another portal."

Piston Cloud will also compete against another NASA-OpenStack spinoff, Nebula, which was started by former NASA CTO Chris Kemp and is building an appliance to launch enterprise private clouds.

McKenty said Piston Cloud will launch a developer preview of pentOS on October 3 with general availability following on November 29.